Sadhvi, five other Malegaon accused in judicial custody till Dec 3 (Roundup, combining different series)

November 24th, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyMumbai/New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) In what could be considered a setback into the Malegaon blast investigations, a court in Mumbai Monday remanded in 14 days’ judicial custody Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur and five others, turning down the plea to keep them in police custody under a stringent anti-terror law.The court order came after the Sadhvi charged the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) with making her hear an obscene CD and repeated her earlier allegation of physical and mental torture against the investigating agency.

Meanwhile, top sources told IANS that the ATS investigations into the Malegaon bombings were moving “satisfactorily”, and that more arrests were likely in a few days.

On its part, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised the ante on Malegaon, demanding that the ATS personnel also be put through narco-analysis tests as the blasts accused have been subjected to and that the provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) - under which Pragnya Thakur Singh and five others have been booked - also be applied to those who had been arrested for the Sept 13 serial blasts in New Delhi.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary Pravin Togadia Monday denied he was involved in the funding of Abhinav Bharat suspected to be behind the Sept 29 Malegaon blasts. He termed media reports as “false and malafide” and threatened to take legal action for dragging his name into the case.

In a related development, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani Monday ridiculed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposal for a task-force to counter terrorism in 100 days, saying the people should prepare a plan to remove the “sluggish government” in 100 days.

Shortly after the proceedings started in the Mumbi court, Pragnya Thakur Singh alleged that the ATS officials threatened to disrobe her if she refused to co-operate in the probe. She also accused the ATS of ill treatment, assault, denial of food on Diwali and of being forced to hear an obscene CD.

Similarly, serving Indian Army officer, Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit also alleged that ATS officials threatened his wife with dire consequences and had said RDX would be planted in his home to frame him.

Retired army officer Maj. Ramesh Upadhyay also alleged beating, torture and harassment at the hands of ATS officers.

The others who were presented before the court were Ajay Rahirkar, Shyam Sahu and Sameer Kulkarni.

According to ATS investigators, had they managed to procure Purohit’s laptop in time they would have hit pay dirt, raising questions whether the computer was tampered with.

“The laptop was removed by army authorities from Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh where Purohit was undergoing language courses and was handed over to the ATS only a week after his arrest,” said a key official in New Delhi.

Forensic tests showed that Purohit often visited anti-Muslim websites, the official added.

In the national capital, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for the Delhi assembly polls, V.K. Malhotra, Monday demanded that the ATS officials investigating the Malegaon bomb blasts should also undergo narco-analysis tests.

“Hindu bashing is the Congress’s way. ATS keeps on leaking information every now and then. All the ATS officials should also undergo narco tests,” Malhotra told reporters at a press conference.

Also in the national capital, BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley made the demand for applying MCOCA to the Delhi blast accused.

“The MCOCA was extended to Delhi in 2002. I want to question the United Progressive Alliance government, why was the Delhi police not allowed to invoke the MCOCA provisions against the Delhi serial blasts accused?” Jaitley asked.

In a statement issued in New Delhi, Togadia’s advocate Dipak Shukla said: “My client firmly denies any funding or involvement related to Abhinav Bharat or any of their affiliated or non-affiliated people in any of their activities.”

A section of the media said arrested Purohit has reportedly told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that Togadia was involved in the formation and funding of the organisation.

The CBI also denied that it was probing Togadia’s alleged role in the Malegaon blasts.

Advani’s comments on Manmohan Singh’s proposal came while he was speaking to reporters in Indore town in Madhya Pradesh.

“People of the country should instead prepare a 100-day plan to remove such a sluggish government. Manmohan Singh took over as prime minister in May 2004 and after 1,600 days, he is talking about a 100-day roadmap.”

He was referring to the prime minister’s recommendation, during his address to police chiefs in New Delhi Sunday, to set up a task-force under National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan to combat terrorism, radical leftwing extremism and insurgency.

Demanding restoration of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), Advani said Manmohan Singh should have instead talked with the police officials about the anti-terror law and they would have told him about its necessity in the country.

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